Smoking Hot: Hungarian Dragons and Chimneys with Dr. Kertész Pál

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The Dr in this house has the fire in his belly of a competitive dragon and the hospitality of a chimney cake. Come meet Hungarian Consul General Kertész Pál.

Years ago in Budapest, the crossroads of Asia and Europe, the mysterious Hongkongers would arrive from the distant Far East, mesmerising a young man tasked with being their tour guide. Little did he know that decades on, he would be the tourist in their home, representing his government as the Consul General.

Kertész is the second Hungarian Consul General to Hong Kong since the Consulate General’s reopening in 2013. The consulate’s operation was suspended in 2008 due to the financial crisis, and the representation then was replaced by an Honorary Consul.

The two jurisdictions maintained good relations nonetheless, signing a Comprehensive Double Taxation Agreement (CDTA) during that time (2010).

“It is fantastic to be back,” Pál says. “We have a great and professional team with a lot of energy. The significant support of the Hong Kong government is also a key to our success.”

He did not arrive a diplomatic novice, regardless of his youth. He is the youngest Consul General among his European peers. He quickly amassed an impressive list of degrees during a prolific academic career.  He may be young – but you can call him Doctor. His Doctorate in Law was obtained while studying under and working with criminal law professors like Dr. Busch Béla. He also worked at the Busch Law Office, gaining valuable practical experience.

His rigour could be explained by family influence and a nurturing environment. Pál grew up in the university setting, surrounded by aspiring academics. “My father was a university professor,” he says. “The whole context of university and learning is very close to me.”

Diplomatic lineage

Pál is not the only diplomat in the Kertész family. The family’s history in diplomacy dates back to shortly after WWII in 1946, when Dr. Kertész István led the Hungarian delegation at the Paris Peace Conference. Kertész István also served as Hungarian ambassador to Rome, Italy in 1947.

Although Kertész István migrated to the United States after the Communist takeover, his story was passed down the family in Hungary onto the younger generation. Uncle István’s diplomatic legend had left a legacy in Pál since young.

“He is regarded as a hero in our family,” Pál recalls. “He is truly my role model.”

Before coming to Hong Kong, he worked at the Hungarian Embassy in Rome, Italy as a Councillor for two and a half years. It was a homecoming of sorts, considering his two years in Naples studying jurisprudence. There he mastered Italian, adding another item onto his list of languages, which includes Hungarian, German, Spanish, English and Latin.

Smoking Hot  in Hong Kong: Dragons and Chimneys

Pál, remembering his youth, was excited to come to Hong Kong. “I worked as a part-time tourist guide back when I was still at university,” he says. “I showed Hong Kong tourist groups around. They were very nice and polite. That left an impression on my mind.”

According to Pál, the Hungarians here in Hong Kong are very engaged in the local culture. Last year, the community founded the ‘Hungarian Dragons’, a dragon boat team participating in the Dragon Boat Festival race. The Polish Consul General Mirosław ‘Mirek’ Adamczyk was one of the rowers. The team won the first place the Stanley race last year.

“[The team] managed to win the Stanley Cup Finals [last year],” he proudly states, “which is a spectacular success for a first time team. The Stanley races are the most prestigious dragon boat races in town.”

This year on June 20, the Hungarian Dragons championed the Stanley races again. Dr. Kertész would have more to be proud of.

Hot Chimney!

Of course, Hong Kong cannot but help love the smoking hot (but not smoking) chimney cakes.The Hungarian chimney cakes are big hit every year at the Europe Day events. “It was a great success,” he says. “We were one of the most popular [booths] at the fair.”

Dr. Kertész’s main mission in Hong Kong is to promote Hungarian agricultural products. “Hungary is essentially an agricultural state,” he explains. “It is very important for us to promote Hungarian produce abroad and to increase the share of Hungarian products on the Hong Kong market.” His recommended Hungarian culinary specialties include Tokaji—Hungarian wine, and Mangalica—Hungarian ham made with pork.

Carrying on the success, the diligent Consul General is already planning for the next big show in October—the Hungarian National Day. He has also settled Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang’s official visit to Hungary in September.

As the young doctor continues to maintain his high standards, it would only make sense that there will be more opportunities between Hungary and Hong Kong to share their common passion for fine dining.

Other passions

In his leisure time, Pál enjoys outdoor sports like skiing. Unfortunately, Hong Kong does not offer that option, but he also enjoys other sports that can be played in the subtropical city.

“I like hiking and wakeboarding,” he says. “Hong Kong with its wonderful nature reserves and parks is a perfect place for that.”

And if the weather would not allow outings to the coasts and hills, he is happy to stick with his good old friends—books. “My favourites are biographies and non-fiction historical books,” he states. Hong Kong’s rich history should provide plenty of entertainment for this tour-guide-turned-young-diplomat.